The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule lift off May 22, 2012, from Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Florida to begin a demonstration mission to the International Space Station.
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NASA TV Live Covered it, but I missed it!:O We could have Watched the Birthing (Docking) live on Thursday Morning 05-24-12...
But you can still see it on Video.NASA Live TV, Go there...
Dragon Grappled and Berthed to Station
Grabbing the Dragon (close view)
Enter the Dragon
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May 22, 2012
Successful Launch Kicks off SpaceX's Historic Mission
Hawthorne, CA – Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft to orbit in an exciting start to the mission that will make SpaceX the first commercial company in history to attempt to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station — something only a handful of governments have ever accomplished.
At 3:44 a.m. Eastern, the Falcon 9 carrying Dragon launched from SpaceX’s launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Now Dragon heads toward the International Space Station. On that journey it will be subjected to a series of tests to determine if the vehicle is ready to berth with the station.
Broadcast quality videos, including video inside of the SpaceX factory, may be downloaded at vimeo.com/spacexlaunch and high-resolution photos are posted at spacexlaunch.zenfolio.com.
At a press conference held after the launch, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk began, “I would like to start off by saying what a tremendous honor it has been to work with NASA. And to acknowledge the fact that we could not have started SpaceX, nor could we have reached this point without the help of NASA… It’s really been an honor to work with such great people.”
The vehicle’s first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage. The second stage successfully delivered the Dragon spacecraft into its intended orbit. This marks the third consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch and the fifth straight launch success for SpaceX.
“We obviously have to go through a number of steps to berth with the Space Station, but everything is looking really good and I think I would count today as a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission,” Musk said.
|Headquarters||Hawthorne, California, USA|
|Key people||Elon Musk (CEO and CTO) |
Gwynne Shotwell (President)
Tom Mueller Co-Founder and VP of Propulsion 
|Products||Orbital rocket launch |
Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
|Employees||> 1,800 (2012)|
In order to control quality and costs, SpaceX designs, tests and fabricates the majority of its components in-house, including the Merlin, Kestrel, and Draco rocket engines used on the Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft. In 2006, NASA awarded the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). On 9 December 2010, the launch of the COTS Demo Flight 1 mission, SpaceX became the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. On May 22, 2012, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carried the unmanned Dragon capsule into space, marking the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the space station.
NASA has also awarded SpaceX a contract to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon as part of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program to transport crew to the ISS. SpaceX is planning its first crewed Dragon/Falcon9 flight in 2015, when it expects to have a fully certified, human-rated launch escape system incorporated into the spacecraft.
Besides NASA contracts, SpaceX has signed contracts with private sector companies, non-American government agencies and the American military for its launch services. It has already launched, for a paying customer, a low earth orbiting satellite with its Falcon 1 booster in 2009. The company plans to launch its first commercial geostationary satellite in 2013 from a Falcon 9.
Future projects that are in the planning stages or in development include the Falcon Heavy launch system, as well as a NASA robotic mission to Mars in 2018. The Heavy is based on Falcon 9 technology, and if construction goes as planned, it will be the most powerful rocket in the American inventory since the Apollo-era Saturn V. Falcon Heavy can be used to send a crewed Dragon spacecraft on lunar orbiting missions – such as the Apollo 8 mission; or be used to send a modified unpiloted Dragon on a Mars landing mission. Musk has stated that his intention for the company is to help in the creation of a permanent human presence on Mars.
BackgroundPayPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk who had invested $100 million USD of his own money by March 2006. In January 2005, SpaceX bought a 10% stake in Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. On 4 August 2008, SpaceX accepted a further $20 million USD investment from the Founders Fund. The company has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2002, growing from 160 employees in November 2005 to more than 500 by July 2008, to over 1,100 in 2010. Two-thirds of the company is owned by its founder and his 70 millions of shares are worth $875 million on private markets, which roughly value SpaceX at $1.3 billion as of February 2012. An initial public offering may happen by the end of 2013.
Musk believes the high prices of other space-launch services are driven in part by unnecessary bureaucracy. He has stated that one of his goals is to improve the cost and reliability of access to space, ultimately by a factor of ten. SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch and return a spacecraft from orbit on 8 December 2010, after its Dragon capsule returned from a two-orbit flight. Space Foundation recognized SpaceX for its successful Dragon launch and recovery with the Space Achievement Award in 2011.
At various conferences, SpaceX has revealed concept slides for future engine, stage, and launch vehicle designs. Development of these designs would be predicated on demand for increased performance. Company plans in 2004 called for "development of a heavy lift product and even a super-heavy, if there is customer demand" with each size increase resulting in a significant decrease in cost per pound to orbit. CEO Elon Musk said: "I believe $500 per pound ($1,100/kg) or less is very achievable."
Elon Musk has stated the personal goal of eventually enabling human exploration and settlement of Mars. He stated in a 2011 interview that he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10–20 years..
Flight operations and contracts
- Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands
- Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40
- Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Launch Complex 4
The company purchased the McGregor, Texas, testing facilities of defunct Beal Aerospace, where it refitted the largest test stand at the facilities for Falcon 9 testing. SpaceX plans to upgrade the facility for launch testing a VTVL rocket in 2012.
On 16 June 2009, SpaceX announced the opening of its Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance Department. It hired former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox to oversee the department as a vice president of the company.
SpaceX broke ground on their own launch site, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, on 13 July 2011. The launch site is intended for use by the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, which is scheduled to be brought on site in 2012 with a test flight to follow soon after. The project is expected to cost between $20 to $30 million USD for the first 24 months of construction and operation; thereafter, operational costs are expected to be $5–10 million USD per year. The site is said to be a natural fit for SpaceX, as they attempted to schedule a Falcon 1 launch from there previously but had to move the launch to the Reagan site due to scheduling conflicts. SpaceX plans to launch up to 16 flights per year by 2015 from Vandenberg.
New commercial-only launch siteAs of April 2012, SpaceX is considering five potential locations around the country for a new commercial launch pad. Potential locations include "sites in Alaska, California, Florida, Texas and Virginia." Although preliminary environmental assessment regulatory documents have been filed for a south Texas location, that site has not yet been selected as the site for construction of the private spaceport facility.
One of the proposed locations for the new commercial-mission-only spaceport is south Texas, which was revealed in April 2012, via preliminary regulatory documentation. The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation initiated a Notice of Intent to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings on the new launch site, which would be located in Cameron County. The site would support up to 12 commercial launches per year, including two Falcon Heavy launches.  "Before anything could be done on the project, an environmental impact statement, a public scoping period and a public scoping meeting would need to be held." The first public meeting is scheduled for May 15, 2012
ContractsOn 2 May 2005, SpaceX announced that it had been awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for Responsive Small Spacelift (RSS) launch services by the United States Air Force, which could allow the Air Force to purchase up to $100 Million USD worth of launches from the company. On 22 April 2008, NASA announced that it had awarded an IDIQ Launch Services contract to SpaceX for Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launches. The contract will be worth up to $1 billion USD, depending on the number of missions awarded. The contract covers launch services ordered by 30 June 2010, for launches through December 2012. Musk stated in the same 2008 announcement that SpaceX has sold 14 contracts for flights on the various Falcon vehicles. On 18 August 2006, NASA announced that SpaceX had won a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to demonstrate cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) with a possible option for crew transport. This contract, designed by NASA to provide "seed money" for development of new boosters, paid SpaceX $278 million USD to develop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, with incentive payments paid at milestones culminating in three demonstration launches. On 23 December 2008, SpaceX announced that it had won a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, for at least 12 missions for $1.6 billion USD to carry supplies and cargo to and from the ISS.
SpaceX announced on 15 March 2010 that it will launch SES-8, a medium-sized communications satellite for SES, on a Falcon 9 vehicle in 2013. SES is SpaceX's first contract for a geostationary communications satellite launch. In June 2010, SpaceX was awarded the largest-ever commercial space launch contract, worth $492 million USD, to launch Iridium satellites using Falcon 9 rockets.
FundingAs of May 2012, SpaceX has operated on total funding of approximately one billion dollars in its first ten years of operation. Of this, private equity has provided about $200M, with Musk investing approximately $100M and other investors having put in about $100M. The remainder has come from progress payments on long-term launch contracts and development contracts. NASA has put in about $400-500M of this amount, with most of that as progress payments on launch contracts. SpaceX currently has contracts for 40 launch missions, and each of those contracts provide down payments at contract signing, plus many are paying progress payments as launch vehicle components are built in advance of mission launch, driven in part by US accounting rules for recognizing long-term revenue.
COTS programIn 2006, NASA awarded the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) On 9 December 2010, the launch of the COTS Demo Flight 1 mission, SpaceX became the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.
The original NASA contract called for the COTS Demo Flight 1 to occur the second quarter of 2008; this flight was delayed several times, occurring at 1543 UTC on 8 December 2010. Dragon was successfully deployed into orbit, circling the Earth twice, and then made a controlled reentry burn that put it on target for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico. With Dragon's safe recovery, SpaceX become the first private company to launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft; prior to this mission, only government agencies had been able to recover orbital spacecraft.
According to the original schedule, in the second flight the Dragon spacecraft would rendezvous with the ISS but not be berthed. The third flight would see Dragon being berthed to the ISS. However, after the success of the first mission, NASA conditionally agreed on 15 July 2011 that the two flights would be combined. The next Dragon mission will now see Dragon being berthed with the ISS. On 9 December 2011, NASA formally approved the merger of the COTS 2 and 3 missions into the COTS 2 flight, but yet again delayed the tentative launch date by another month to 7 February 2012. However, on 16 January 2012, SpaceX announced it needed more time for engineering tests, and postponed the launch date again, with no replacement date initially announced. On 19 May at approximately 4:55AM EDT the launch for the COTS 2+ mission was automatically aborted when the pressure in one of the engine chambers was higher than expected. The launch was postponed to 22 May, at which point it succeeded in putting the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. 
CCDev programNASA's Commercial Crew Development program intends to develop commercially operated manned spacecrafts capable of delivering crew to the ISS, during the second phase of the program NASA awarded SpaceX with a contract to further develop their launch escape system, test a crew accommodations mock-up and to further progress the Falcon 9/Dragon crew transportation design. SpaceX has submitted a proposal for the third round of the CCDev program. SpaceX is planning a crewed Dragon/Falcon9 flight in future years when it expects to have a fully certified, human-rated launch escape system incorporated into the spacecraft.
"Red Dragon" Mars mission conceptIn addition to SpaceX's privately funded plans for an eventual Mars mission, as of July 2011 NASA Ames Research Center is developing a concept for a low-cost Mars mission that would utilize Falcon Heavy as the launch vehicle and trans-Martian injection vehicle, and the Dragon capsule to enter the Martian atmosphere. The concept, called 'Red Dragon', would be proposed for funding in 2012/2013 as a NASA Discovery mission, for launch in 2018 and arrival at Mars several months later. The science objectives of the mission would be to look for evidence of life — detecting "molecules that are proof of life, like DNA or perchlorate reductase ... proof of life through biomolecules. ... Red Dragon would drill 3.3 feet (1.0 m) or so underground, in an effort to sample reservoirs of water ice known to lurk under the red dirt." The mission cost is projected to be less than $425,000,000, not including the launch cost.
Space vehiclesFalcon 1, which made its first successful flight on 28 September 2008, and the large Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class Falcon 9, which flew successfully into orbit on its maiden launch on 4 June 2010. A Falcon 5 launcher was also planned, but its development was stopped in favor of the Falcon 9. SpaceX also developed the Dragon, a pressurized orbital spacecraft that is launched on top of a Falcon 9 booster, that can carry cargo, and is in the process of being human-rated.
Falcon 1 It also functioned as a testbed for developing concepts and components for the larger Falcon 9. Initial Falcon 1 flights were launched from the US government's Reagan Test Center on the island atoll of Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean, and represented the first attempt to fly a ground-launched rocket to orbit from that site.
On 26 March 2006, the Falcon 1's maiden flight failed only seconds after leaving the pad due to a fuel line rupture. After almost a full-year, the second flight was launched on 22 March 2007 and also ended in failure, due to a spin stabilization problem that automatically caused sensors to turn off the Merlin first stage engine. The third Falcon 1 flight used a new regenerative cooling system for the first stage Merlin engine, and its development was responsible for the almost 17-month flight delay. The new cooling system turned out to be the major reason the mission failed; because the first stage rammed into the second stage engine bell at staging, due to excess fuel, left over from the cooling system, powering the engine a few seconds longer than it was supposed to. On 28 September 2008, the Falcon 1 succeeded in reaching orbit on its fourth attempt, becoming the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket to do so. The Falcon 1 carried its first successful commercial payload, RazakSAT, into orbit on 13 July 2009, on its fifth launch.
Falcon 9On 8 September 2005, SpaceX announced the development of the medium-lift Falcon 9 rocket, which can deliver up to 10,450 kilograms (23,000 lb) to orbit. It has nine Merlin engines in its first stage. The design is an EELV-class vehicle, intended to compete with the Delta IV and the Atlas V rockets.
On 22 November 2008, SpaceX fired the nine Merlin 1C engines of the Falcon 9 at their McGregor test facility. Delivering 350 metric-tons-force (3.4-meganewtons) of thrust, the engines were well under the test stand's capacity of 1,500 metric-tons-force (15 meganewtons).
The first Falcon 9 vehicle was integrated at Cape Canaveral on 30 December 2008. NASA was planning for a flight to take place in January 2010; however the maiden flight was postponed several times and took place on 4 June 2010. At 2:50pm EST the Falcon 9 rocket successfully reached orbit. The second flight for the Falcon 9 vehicle was the COTS Demo Flight 1, the first launch under the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract designed to provide "seed money" for development of new boosters.
Falcon HeavyThe Falcon Heavy is a planned heavy-lift configuration using a cluster of three Falcon 9 first stage cores with a total 27 uprated Merlin 1D engines and propellant cross-feed. SpaceX is aiming for the first demo flight of the Falcon Heavy in 2013.
Dragon The Dragon spacecraft is intended to carry up to seven astronauts into orbit and beyond. It is a conventional blunt-cone ballistic capsule, which is capable of carrying 7 people or a mixture of personnel and cargo to and from low Earth orbit. It is launched atop a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the spacecraft's nosecone is jettisoned shortly after launch. For NASA cargo missions, Dragon will be equipped with a Common Berthing Mechanism, and will be berthed to the U.S. segment of the ISS by the Canadarm2. For NASA manned missions, Dragon will be equipped with the NASA Docking System and dock to the U.S. segment.
In 2006, NASA announced that the company was one of two selected to provide crew and cargo resupply demonstration contracts to the ISS under the COTS program. SpaceX will demonstrate cargo resupply and eventually crew transportation services using the Dragon. NASA's original plan called for COTS demonstration flights between 2008 and 2010. SpaceX was not able to meet that schedule, but eventually began test-flights in 2010.
The first flight of a Dragon structural test article took place 4 June 2010, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the maiden flight of the Falcon 9, although the mock-up Dragon lacked avionics, heat shield, and other key elements. An operational Dragon spacecraft was launched on 8 December 2010 aboard COTS Demo Flight 1, the Falcon 9's second flight, and safely returned to Earth after two orbits, completing all its mission objectives.
In 2009 and 2010, Musk suggested on several occasions that plans for a human-rated variant of Dragon were proceeding and had a 2- to 3-year time line to completion. On 18 April 2011, NASA granted SpaceX $75 million to develop Dragon's integrated launch escape system in preparation for human-rating it as a crew transport vehicle to the ISS as part of its second-round CCDev Space Act funding. This Space Act Agreement runs from April 2011 until May 2012, when the next funding round grants are to be awarded. NASA approved the technical plans for the system in October 2011, and SpaceX began building prototype hardware.
GrasshopperThe Grasshopper reusable launch vehicle (RLV) is a vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) technology demonstrator rocket being built in 2011 for low-altitude testing scheduled to begin in 2012. The rocket "consists of a Falcon 9 first stage tank, a single Merlin-1D engine, four steel landing legs and a support structure, plus other pressurization tanks attached to the support structure" and will stand at 106 feet (32 m) tall.
Air-launched rocketIn December 2011 Stratolaunch Systems announced that it would contract with SpaceX to develop an air-launched, four or five engine, multiple-stage launch vehicle, as a derivative of Falcon 9 technology, called the Falcon 9 Air, as part of the Stratolaunch project. Stratolaunch will initially place satellites of up to 6,100 kg (13,000 pounds) into low-earth orbit; and once it is established as a reliable system, a human-rated version will also be explored. The system can take-off from airfields with a minimum 3,700 m (12,100 feet) length, and the carrier aircraft is supposed to fly to 9,100 m (30,000 feet) and travel to a launch point up to 2,200 km (1,200 nautical miles) away from the airfield.
Stratolaunch Systems is a project funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen's Vulcan investment and project management company. The whole system will be the largest aircraft ever built; with the first test flight of the carrier aircraft expected in 2015 from Scaled Composites' facilities in Mojave, California, and the first test launch of the rocket not expected before 2016.
Concept vehiclesIn a presentation to the Joint Propulsion Conference in July 2010, SpaceX revealed preliminary, but unfunded, design concepts for a larger Merlin 2 engine. The Merlin 2 would be used on conceptual heavy-lift launch vehicles Falcon X, Falcon X Heavy, and Falcon XX. By mid-August, the SpaceX CEO Elon Musk clarified that while the Merlin 2 engine architecture was a key element of any effort SpaceX would make toward their objective of "super-heavy lift" launch vehicles—and that SpaceX indeed did want to "move toward super heavy lift"—the specific potential design configurations of the particular launch vehicles shown by Markusic at the propulsion conference were merely conceptual "brainstorming ideas", just a "bunch of ideas for discussion."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Category:SpaceX|
- SpaceX official company website
- Michael Belfiore's notes from SpaceX pre-launch conference in 2005
- Kwajalein Atoll and Rockets (Candid and highly unofficial blog by Elon Musk's brother Kimbal, with on-site pictures and reporting.)
- Video of Elon Musk discussing his interest in enabling human missions to Mars on YouTube
- SpaceX on Twitter
- SpaceX's channel on YouTube
- SpaceX on Facebook
- Launch of 1st private craft to space station | Fox News Latino
- BBC News - Launch success for SpaceX mission
- DonsDeals: Congratulations To the Crunchies Winners; Facebook Takes Top Prize For Second Year
- SpaceX Dragon's ultimate mission is Mars colonization
- A new frontier for space travel - latimes.com
- SpaceX, NASA confirm all systems are go for historic mission - latimes.com
- msnbc video: Officials discuss scrubbed SpaceX launch
- How SpaceX's Dragon Space Capsule Works (Infographic) | SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft & Falcon 9 Rocket Launches | Private Spaceships & Human Spaceflight | Space.com
- SpaceX Search NASA - Multimedia - Video Gallery
- SpaceX at DuckDuckGo
- SpaceX - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Space Exploration Technologies Corporation - Press
- Elon Musk | CrunchBase Profile
- Astronauts enter world's first private supply ship | TBO.com
- DonsDeals: SpaceX - Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 on it's way to ISS!
- SpaceX, NASA confirm all systems are go for historic mission - latimes.com
- NASA - Multimedia - Video Gallery